Pretty Dead Queens / Alexa Donne / Book Review

On the surface, Seaview is a sleepy little town. Its only claim to fame is renowned author Maura Weston, queen of murder--and seventeen-year-old Cecelia Ellis's grandmother. 

After Cecelia loses her mom to cancer, she goes to live with her estranged grandmother in an old Victorian mansion in the hills just outside Seaview, and she prepares herself for all the intimacies (and mundanities) of small town California life. But Seaview isn't just Maura Weston's hometown. It launched her career when Seaview High's homecoming queen was murdered on the night of the dance--the perfect fodder for Maura Weston's debut novel. 

Decades later, a new homecoming queen meets her death in the exact same way.

With a copycat killer on the loose, Cecilia isn't just one to sit by and let the (incompetent) small-town cops do their jobs. She's the granddaughter of a famous murder mystery writer, after all. If she can't crack the case, who will? But the more she digs into Seaview's history, the more she realizes just how much danger she's really in. 


This is a really fun autumn read! The small town murder mystery aspect is strong, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are so many suspects, all with good motives, to keep you guessing through to the end. 


  • Small Town Vibe: A coastal town, a murder mystery convention, an old Victorian mansion up in the hills: this book is everything a mystery should be. Everybody knows everybody, and nobody's business remains a secret for long. The whole atmosphere for this book is perfect for a spooky, autumn release date!
  • No Dancing Around: There's always a place for will-they-won't-they romance, but this book is not that place. The murder board and mystery are what's important, and so the romance here gets straight to the point. Boy likes girl. Girl likes boy. They ask each other out, hit it off, start dating. I like the simplicity here. A drawn-out sort of pining would get in the way of the murder-solving itself. The fact that this romance jumps right in is refreshing. 
  • Authorly Intention: Books that include a predominant author figure have become somewhat notorious... for being notoriously bad self-inserts. Fortunately, that's not the case here. Famous mystery author Maura Weston is a character in her own right, strong and bold and very intentionally part of this story. This book, and Maura, channel Murder, She Wrote vibes in the best way possible--something that was entirely intentional. 


  • Too Quick: Everyone in the friend group seems to move on too quickly after their homecoming queen friend gets, you know, murdered. It takes time to process death, especially the death of a close friend. Unexpected death takes more time, and murder... Well, murder should take quite a bit of time to process, even if the friend in question turns out to be rather terrible. The fact that this group of friends, a day later, is already holding an informal memorial together feels just a little too quick. They'd still be in shock at that point, I think--definitely not ready to organize and toast just yet! It felt a little bit unrealistic, timeline-wise. 
  • Tedious Description: There's unfortunately no other way to describe my experience with the opening of this book. While I loved the small town setting, the opening chapters dragged on. I found it hard to sink into the setting (that I ultimately loved) because I found myself having to go back and reread long descriptive passages. My mind got bored and wandered off, and I never like having to go back and repeat!
  • No Fear: Another thing that I took issue with: Cecilia seems to feel no fear. I can understand being bold, being focused, being obsessed and less-than-self-aware. But a girl has been murdered in the pool, and there's not an ounce of trepidation that Cecilia seems to feel about it. She's horrified by the body of course, but fear? Even the boldest of people would feel something when a cryptic text tries to lure them into the pool... where the murder happened. Cecilia has no qualms, even when she should, and I found it hard to buy that. 



Those who liked the spooky update to Pretty Little Liars that HBO gave in Original Sin should check out this new small town murder mystery. Those who appreciated Kyra Leigh's contemporary Lizzie-Borden-update It Will End Like This will enjoy the inevitability of this murderous new plot. 


Publisher: Crown Books
Date: October 4, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. I don't even have to read it to know this book is awesome


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